If you think Philly sports fans are basketball-crazed now, as the Sixers sit in first place in the East with an MVP frontrunner on the squad, just imagine what the city would be like with double the pro hoops to watch.
A second team could eventually be on the way, according to Delco native and WNBA star Natasha Cloud of the Washington Mystics, who said during the Girls Talk Sports TV Clubhouse panel on Wednesday night that individuals in Philadelphia have been pushing the women's basketball league for close to a year on putting a team in Philly.
Reports of Cloud's comments surfaced on social media on Wednesday night, and were widely shared on Twitter by Thursday morning.
Khristina Williams, the founder of Girls Talk Sports TV, confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia that Cloud did indeed say that the push for the WNBA to land in Philly has been in the works.
And in an interview with WRNB 100.3 host Mina SayWhat earlier this week, Cloud had similar things to say:
"It's not necessarily a secret - that's what I was told - we are trying to get a Philly team. It has been in the works for a year and a half. Put a little pressure, not only on the city, but on the [WNBA], too. Our thing - for us to progress, our league needs to expand. We have to have more than 144 jobs. [...] Listen, it's in the works. I'm trying my damndest to bring a team back to Philly."
Cloud herself clarified on Twitter on Thursday that the push for a team in Philadelphia is not coming from the league itself:
A spokesperson for the WNBA provided this statement to NBC Sports Philadelphia:
"We always appreciate the interest in the WNBA and expansion is a longer term goal, but the league's main focus remains on the existing 12 franchises and working together to have a thriving 25th anniversary season, and to continue to transform our business model to set up the league for a sustainable future."
Back in 2019, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert gave her take on expansion at the time:
"Would we look at expansion down the road? That’s something, certainly as interested investors want to talk about a franchise, we will look at it, but my number one focus as the commissioner is on our 12 franchises today."
It's been two years. That's down the road, right?
Last May, I examined why now is a perfect time for WNBA expansion, and why Philly makes perfect sense as a target market:
"After a quarter-century of games, the league is in a cautiously optimistic position: it saw a 39 percent increase in year-over-year June viewership, and just added its brightest young star in years in New York Liberty No. 1 overall pick Sabrina Ionescu, who promises to be the face of the league for the next decade-plus."
"As of October 2019, Philadelphia was the fourth-largest television market in the country, according to Nielsen's estimates. The three ahead of Philadelphia — New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago — all have WNBA teams. Six of the 10 largest markets, and 10 of the 15 largest markets, by Nielsen's estimates have WNBA teams."
All of this is still true. I need a WNBA team in Philly like I need air to breathe. Adding a WNBA team to the Philly sports scene would be a gigantic victory for the city, for sports fans, and for the game.
This city is known for its passionate, borderline rabid sports fandom, which is the perfect place to place a pro team. Philly is also steeped in basketball history, from The Palestra and Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game up through Dawn Staley, Allen Iverson, and Joel Embiid. This is a basketball city, period.
Think about Cloud's first game in Philly. Think about Elena Delle Donne playing out the final years of her career just 45 minutes from where she played college basketball. Think about a location-based rivalry with the New York Liberty and Sabrina Ionescu, the face of the league for the next decade. It's all perfect.
And, if a Philly-based WNBA team starts rolling after a couple years in the league, you won't be able to shut the fans up. It'll be amazing.
Give us what we want, WNBA, and you will not be disappointed.